I woke up this morning to a dull haze that settled into the valleys of this place. A thick kind of air that’s veiling the changing trees and golden grasses, a mysterious way to showcase a changing season
I ventured out in it to clear my head, put a flush in my cheeks, to remind these lungs and these legs that I belong here under this September sky.
At least that is what I hold on tight to, especially in the hardest times, the times when the unanswerable questions scream at us until we fall to our knees.
These questions seem louder today as our community is scouring the banks and current of the Yellowstone River for a 13-year-old boy who was swept away without warning.
Why? With the inhale of a breath, just like that, it all changes.
I march across a landscape that was, just months ago, soft and lush and full of new life. The limbs of trees bursting with new leaves, the creek beds flowing with the heartbeat of the creatures that drink from it, the colors of the wildflowers flashy and fertile, the green grasses bending and swaying with the rhythm of a warm wind.
Bountiful, beautiful, enchanting new life.
But today, the same sun that helped spring life from the earth is working on stripping the landscape of its softness, turning it sharp and dry and brown under my feet. With that sort of change, we could easily be convinced that all hope is lost. That this is it. The green will never return.
But we’ve come to understand that it’s just the spinning of the planet, the change of a season. And we know that from the deep depths of winter, eventually a crocus will push through the mud, reaching its pedals to the sky.
This is fair to us. This is nature, the circle, the seasons defined. We accept that we must harvest the wheat, pick the last berries and bundle up for winter. We only mourn the loss of a season briefly, because certainly it will come back around again.
But how do we accept it when a human heart stops beating?
When faced with insurmountable loss and grief, there’s no grip tight enough, no kiss warm enough, no clock that moves fast enough.
“Why? How will we go on? What happens to us now?”
In my life I’ve asked these questions inside of church buildings, in the lines of books, in doctor’s offices and while holding on tightly to family. But it’s when I’ve walked the silent trails of tangled brush and bugs buzzing, abandoned nests and broken branches and when I’ve screamed to the sky to hold us together, to remain predictable and steady, that I’ve come to be the most comforted. Feet in the mud, face to the sun, hands touching the grasses and lungs sucking in the air.
Because out under this, down from the hills and off the trails, I’ve found that there is suffering out here that looks just like ours. The tiny mouse doesn’t always outrun the hawk; thorns and burs tangle and take over the land. Even the mighty oak can’t run from the storm.
But then, among the bare, black, snarl of the brush in the dead of the fall, a vibrant, hearty vine wraps its way toward the sky, holding out for the season, shining bright against the gloom. Bittersweet.
And that mighty oak, despite the eminent snowstorm, releases its acorns with the hope that one of her seeds might take root and reach for the sky someday.
She seems to be whispering, “Those we must let go, will come back to us…”
On the scent of a rose, the glisten of dew on the grass, in the breath of a horse, the sigh of a newborn child or the sunrise through a bedroom window each morning — a quiet sign that those heartbeats still surround us.
And that crocus? A lesson to live this brief life with vulnerability and color — and be the first to welcome the light.
Keep Ira and his family in your hearts. May they find peace among the pain. Since I filed this column that have found his body and today they are holding a funeral in celebration of his life.
Take care of one another.